This year's National Volunteer Week (1-7 June) has given me a bit of a pause for thought. 

We have of course taken the opportunity to celebrate some of our wonderful existing volunteers, (If you haven't seen the daily posts on our social media channels, have a look at our facebook page and highlight some of our available volunteering opportunities (

I have also had the opportunity to reflect on my personal history of working as, and with volunteers. 

I started working with the RSPB as a volunteer myself, 14 years ago. I joined a small team in a visitor centre on the North West coast in Lytham St Annes called the Ribble Discovery Centre. I was fairly recently out of uni, and had no idea what I wanted to do. I was interested in the environment, and conservation in a general way and I knew a bit about the RSPB, but I wasn't a 'birder' by any stretch of the imagination. Would I find a place? My experience in customer service meant that I was a good fit for the visitor centre. I also started to help out at events, and then school visits too. It was in this small visitor centre that I developed a passion for the work of the RSPB. 

The experience I gained in working as a volunteer extended far beyond the roles I fulfilled. I met some amazing people. Many volunteers for the RSPB are retired. Working alongside people from different backgrounds and different lived experience to my own helped to develop my world view. I learned patience, generosity, respect. I learned that everyone has something to contribute, and everyone has a story to tell.

I also learned a lot about myself. I discovered an aptitude for engaging with people. I found a passion for wildlife and nature that had been there as a child, but had been buried by my teenaged and young adult priorities. I revelled in my capacity to learn new facts and pass them on. 

During this time I was supported not only by my line manager, but by my fellow volunteers. Every single person was so generous with their time, knowledge and passion. 

Since that first volunteering role, I have had the opportunity to volunteer with other organisations, as well as work with some amazing volunteers.

Here at Old Moor the variety and scale of professional and personal skills and experience that is donated is incredible. We have people that write, engage with children and young people, help birders spot that rarity, monitor our breeding populations and help us with our health and safety obligations. We have people that are on one of our reserves virtually every day as well as people that can manage half a day a fortnight. People that have brought their professional skills with them and those that have come and learned something new. Everyone has one thing in common. A love of nature and wildlife. 

I am humbled every day by our fantastic volunteers. This evening, I raise a glass to every one of you that I have had the pleasure to work with over the years, and to those I am yet to meet.